Wednesday, December 8, 2010

For most of my life, I have had a perfect romance with sleep. It was basically love at first sight. I caught a glimpse of the bewitching netherworld of Morpheus and promptly fell.


I've always loved going to bed, staying in bed, sleeping in, sleeping late. As a kid, I remember being so happy to be in bed, I would swaddle myself up tight and--despite being a person who tends towards melancholy--actually smile. Even (weird, but true) squeal with something that I can only describe as: joy. (At some point, the inexplicable word, "Cozy-co!" became part of the proceedings as well.) My favorite toys as a kid were stuffed animals--sleep buddies. For a time in grade school, I would set my alarm clock for 2 or 3 am, just so I could wake up and then fully delight in falling asleep again. I remember vividly as a teenager not hoping I'd never feel the invariably inappropriately timed, painful, full body exhaustion of adolescence--but that I would feel it when I was near a bed. How glorious that would be! To not have to fight the super-villain "Drouser" in 8th grade study hall, but just surrender, give in, fall into that sweet silence. And once I got to college and experienced the sometime sleep deprivation that goes with studying long hours at the wrong time, all I wanted to do on school breaks was sleep until I couldn't sleep anymore.

In fact, though, sleeping until I couldn't sleep anymore seemed a crazy, nonsensical desire. When would that ever happen? When would I not be able to sleep? Coffee with lunch? I see that and raise you a double shot espresso at 11pm. Two hour snoozer in the middle of the day? Pshaw, it was just a prelude to the bliss. Jet lag? What, exactly, is that? Nothing that would ever keep me awake.

Because nothing ever could keep me awake. I could sleep in cars (only as a passenger--usually), at loud parties (literally, once, right next to a pounding speaker the size of a water buffalo), on the subway (yes, I missed a stop once), while having my hair blown dry (many, many times; so warm). Sleep was my constant companion, my most reliable friend. The Calgon that could always, no matter, what, take me away. When I'd see a movie about someone trapped in solitary confinement, chaffing every moment, scratching at the walls, I'd think, "Come on; why not just have a nice nap?"

But then. What happened? I'm not sure. At some point (it's fuzzy, frankly; I was half asleep), night became...complicated. There was waking. More than once a night, and without my alarm clock purposely set to 3am. This wasn't a loopy trick orchestrated to birth a second slumber; this waking meant business. This waking meant staying awake. A half hour that turned into 45 minutes, that turned into an hour that turned into rage that turned into sanctimony. (I was up! From 2:10 to 4:45! And I'm awake and walking and talking now! Do you feel sorry for me? I really wish you would.)

Suddenly a nap in the afternoon always meant an interrupted night's sleep. The idea of getting 8 hours, deep and straight, became a chimera, as hard to capture as a dream. After a lifetime of reveling in sleep, luxuriating in sleep, loving sleep unconditionally and being loved unconditionally back...I find myself, well: getting dumped.

Sleep is dumping me. I keep hoping--tonight we'll be happy together! But it never really, truly happens. For the most part...sleep is distracted. Only half there. Sleep just won't commit; I can't get sleep to settle down with me. We're not on the same schedule. We've grown apart. Sleep doesn't understand my needs.

Sleep's heading out for a pack of cigarettes. And I'm pretty sure he's not coming back.

And now I'm getting mad. Every night, I wait for sleep, more and more angry and tense, awaiting an arrival that, if it comes, will be obligatory at best. "Fine. Go. I'm over you." But really, inside, I'm thinking, "Wait! No, come back! I need you!"

Naturally, here, as in the third act of any romantic melodrama: we turn to drugs.

Ah, the drugs. The Tylenol PMs, the Ambiens, the Lunestas. Nice, helpful for a while, cozy but...ultimately, in the end, sad substitutions for the real thing. Like a last ditch, desperate attempt to save the marriage by booking two weeks in Cancun. Yeah, you get a little of that old magic back's temporary. It's false. It's forced. In the end, it...ends. And you have to wake up and smell the coffee. Of course--it's morning already.

So: sigh. I'm not sure this is a break up I can get over. I can't decide: screw sleep. I'll be happy Miniatures. Home beer brewing.

But I won't be. Sleep is irreplaceable. Like oxygen and talking and basic cable. Without it, I'm nothing.

So I just have to keep trying to make it work. Every. Damn. Night.

No matter how tired it makes me.

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